Going digital with live events

With social distancing still being practiced and restrictions on the number of individuals from different households that can be together in the same place, the event industry as we know it has been brought to its knees by Coronavirus. The thriving and bustling industry has been put on pause, with uncertainty around when it will return to ‘normal’.

As such, those who rely on in-person events are having to get creative. Webinars, digital conferences and virtual markets have dramatically increased in popularity. But, what are the best alternatives to live events, and how do you host a successful virtual event?

Going digital

As technology advances, the struggle of replicating face-to-face human interactions gets easier. Video conferencing services allow you to see and interact with event attendees in real-time, keeping everybody safe while doing so. Without physical venue hire, you can also expect to see lower running costs for your event, which can make them extremely profitable to run and even more accessible to your customers! 

Difficulties with going digital, such as technical limitations, or a lack of attendees/sign-ups for your events may not have been something you have experienced before, however, we’re here to tell you how to get the most from these events, and why you should continue hosting them digitally long into the future.

From increasing brand awareness to driving leads, virtual events can be harnessed in a number of ways to fulfil your business objectives. Head of PR, Liz Cooper, says that ‘going digital’ can provide you with added advantages, but like any marketing activity needs thorough preparation and testing to ensure you don’t have an embarrassing failure on your hands.  

“Everyone remembers the event they went to when the speaker dried up or the slides failed to sync with the speech and the same will go for a digital event. Yes, it will be easier to attract attendees as they won’t have to travel large distances.  However in order to attract attendance you need to ensure you add interest, excitement and engagement ahead of the date and encourage participation and interaction to illustrate the value of spending time with you.

“When considering the special needs for an online media briefing event ensure journalists’ specific needs are met with speakers available for follow-up interviews and if your event has a mixed audience use dedicated Slack channels or Zoom breakout rooms for journalists to ask questions and get what they need.

“Another point to consider is pre-event training for your speakers to ensure they are ready to present to-camera – we’ve all suffered from the video call image of ourselves recently and a speaker who looks confident and authoritative will have far more impact than one who resembles a rabbit in the headlights.”

Webinars

Perhaps the most popular choice for hosting online training events; webinars and seminars are used widely for virtual educational events. If you run a course which you would usually deliver in person, why not consider taking it online?

Driving sign-ups through social media and your website, you can use webinars to establish yourself as a thought-leader and also capture data from leads and potential customers/clients. In-person events would struggle to compete with the success seen by webinars here.

For our client, Zip Water UK, we hosted a successful webinar with Independent Education Today and University Business to educate their audience on sustainable drinking water solutions and how they can play a role in eradicating single-use plastic water bottles. Here’s what our Junior Account Director, Sara French has to say about the success of webinars:

“The webinar was a fantastic experience and allowed us to really present our client as a thought leader – we were able to secure some truly inspirational guest speakers and be conservational about a topic that really matters in today’s world. It provided the perfect opportunity for Zip Water to align its brand values with potential customers’ in a real-life context and, thanks to working closely with a media partner, we knew we were speaking to a very specific target audience and could tailor the messaging accordingly. The webinar attendees included key decision makers at universities and schools across the globe. With such a positive experience behind us we plan to do more webinars with Zip Water this year to a variety of target audiences.”

One reason why webinars are so successful is that they benefit from face-to-face human presentations, where your clients/customers can put a face to your business and connect on a personal level. Knowing who is behind your business not only develops trust between you and them, but it also creates lasting business relationships. These benefits, combined with building your email list and creating leads, mean webinars are a wise choice for those who have valuable lessons to teach their customers.

For those who are time-sensitive, but have valuable knowledge to turn into content, a key reason why webinars are appealing is that they can be recorded and repurposed time and time again, pulling in new potential clients each time. 

Facebook Watch party

Facebook groups may not be the most obvious way to host a virtual event, but their Watch Party feature is ideal for streaming to a private audience. If you’ve got a workshop to host or perhaps an announcement to make that you’d like to gather attendees for, this could be a great choice. 

Available for groups only, Watch Party allows Facebook Group admins to hold a live screening of pre-recorded videos. Members of that Facebook group can all watch and comment on the videos at the same time to create a shared viewing experience. This means that the person presenting can engage in conversations or Q&A’s with viewers in the comments section while the video plays due to the fact the content streaming is pre-recorded.

As Watch Party is available in Facebook Groups, prior to the event, the group itself can be used to build momentum and excitement for the content you will be covering in your workshop and providing any additional resources your attendees may need. You can use the group and its engaged audience to promote your other services, personal profile, social media accounts and even answer any questions attendees may have beforehand. 

Digital presentation

Digital presentations are a great choice for presenting a new product or feature. The idea of launching a product virtually can be daunting, but in fact, there is lots of potential for these events to be innovative and engaging for your audience. 

Take Bike company VanMoof for example. They were supposed to launch their new e-bike models at a live event, but this was cancelled due to Coronavirus. To combat this, they hired a design studio to create a virtual product launch for them instead. The launch featured virtual renderings of each of the new bikes being launched, as well as video presentations and interactive features to keep viewers engaged.

For a digital presentation, you can pre-record the speaker’s videos, which helps reduce any room for errors on the day, as you can ensure you’re happy with the content before the presentation. 

Virtual product launches can also increase the reach of your product. If you’re based in London, your audience doesn’t need to be in the same place as you to attend – you could reach people as far as Australia – opening up a world of opportunity, as long as you ship the product that far! 

Virtual Conference

If you’re thinking about hosting a virtual event for your employees, a digital conference could work well. Video conferencing software, such as Zoom, can allow you and a number of speakers to present your screens. Zoom Webinar, which is an advanced version of Zoom, allows you to host online events with up to 100 interactive video participants. Plans also range from 100 to 10,000 view-only attendees. 

With Zoom Webinar, each speaker acts as a panellist, who can share their own screen to present a presentation or slideshow, using their own webcams and mics. One thing to ensure when hosting a virtual conference is that the title of each speaker is shown in real-time. This helps attendees know who is talking and lets them know who to contact or connect with if they have any further questions.

To encourage attendance among employees for a virtual conference, you could consider working with sponsors of the business or event itself to ship out gift bags to those who sign up and join the event. This can be a fun way to ensure attendance with bonuses. 

If you’re looking to host a digital event to replace an in-person event, please get in touch. We can help you transition to digital and ensure every event you host is memorable and engaging for your audience. We’re just a phone call away.

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